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The Emotional Dynamics of Workplace Democracy: Emotional Labor, Collective Effervescence, and Commitment at Work

Organizational Imaginaries: Tempering Capitalism and Tending to Communities through Cooperatives and Collectivist Democracy

ISBN: 978-1-83867-990-3, eISBN: 978-1-83867-989-7

ISSN: 0733-558X

Publication date: 24 March 2021

Abstract

Collectivist organizations like worker cooperatives are known for requiring high levels of participation, striving toward community, and making space for affective relationships among their members. The emotional intensity of such organizations has long been considered both an asset and a burden: while personal relationships may generate solidarity and sustain commitment, interpersonal interactions can be emotionally intense and, if left unmanaged, can even lead to organizational demise. How do collectivist-democratic organizations manage emotions to create and sustain member commitment? This study draws on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in a worker-run, worker-recuperated business in Argentina to analyze the emotional dynamics of a democratic workplace. First, the author shows how members of the cooperative engage in emotional labor not only in their customer service, but also through their participation in lateral management and democratic governance. An analysis of individual feeling management, however, provides only a partial picture of emotional dynamics. Drawing on the theory of interaction ritual chains, the author argues that workplace practices like meetings and events can produce collective emotions that are critical to maintaining members’ commitment to the group. Finally, the author shows how interaction ritual chains operate in the BAUEN Cooperative, tracing how symbols of shared affiliation circulate through interactions and are reactivated through the confrontation of a common threat. The author concludes by reflecting on implications for future research on emotions in collectivist organizations and participatory workplaces more broadly.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Acknowledgments

I am deeply grateful to members of the BAUEN Cooperative for their generous participation in this research. Many thanks to the anonymous reviewers, to the editors of this special issue, Katherine Chen and Victor Chen, and to Kate Averett, Melissa McWilliams, and Megan Tobias Neely for their thoughtful feedback on this paper. Thank you also to Javier Auyero, Sharmila Rudrappa, and Michael P. Young, who inspired me to pay attention to emotions very early in my fieldwork. A previous version was presented at a mini-conference at the 2019 meeting of the Eastern Sociological Society. Thank you to the organizers, Megan Tobias Neely and Aliya Rao, as well as to the panelists and audience for their comments.

Citation

Sobering, K. (2021), "The Emotional Dynamics of Workplace Democracy: Emotional Labor, Collective Effervescence, and Commitment at Work", Chen, K.K. and Chen, V.T. (Ed.) Organizational Imaginaries: Tempering Capitalism and Tending to Communities through Cooperatives and Collectivist Democracy (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 72), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 31-54. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0733-558X20210000072002

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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